What is “Caveat Emptor”?

At Porter Dodson, we try to avoid bamboozling clients with legal jargon, but often get asked what is meant by the term “Caveat Emptor”. Translated from its Latin origins, it means “let the buyer beware”.

Under the principal of Caveat Emptor, the buyer of a property cannot recover damages from the seller simply because the seller fails to disclose defects to the buyer. There is a small exception for concealing hidden (or latent) defects, but otherwise the seller is generally not liable for keeping silent on matters which the buyer can otherwise find out about. Therefore, a buyer of a property should ask prudent questions of the seller.

The conveyancing process for both commercial and residential properties has developed a series of “standard” enquiries to ensure that the seller is put to answering questions about the usual type of areas where a dispute can arise. Other bespoke enquiries can be raised in specific circumstances and if the seller then gives an untrue response to a specific question, they will be liable to pay the buyer damages for losses suffered by way of an action in misrepresentation.

A buyer of a property should also make appropriate enquiries of publicly available information through things such as a local search. This ensures that they know all they want to about a property before committing to that purchase. At Porter Dodson, our conveyancers will make sure that a buyer has all that information before they enter into a legally binding contract.

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